Schools are closed and playgrounds are empty. Cultural events are rare. Even in this peak season of the year, corporate activities and social events are also limited.
So, demand for crests, medals and gift items still remains low, leading to closure of such shops and forcing many to change business.
Those who are left in the business are struggling to survive. Though the economy reopened long back, the business of crests, medals and gift items is yet to return to the recovery phase.
Traders said though they had already laid off most of their workers and managed shop owners to avail a three-month rent waiver in a cost minimisation bid,the sales are still too poor to pay shop rents.
The Kataban area adjacent to the Dhaka University campus is one of the largest crest markets in the capital. Crests, medals, trophies, nameplates, digital signs and gift items are sold here both in wholesale and retail. Besides, there are such shops in Mohakhali, Baitul Mukarram and Gulistan.
There are around 1,000 enterprises which make crests in the capital. Additionally, there are such shops in divisions, districts and upazila headquarters.
Kataban's Nishan Ad owner KM Maniruzzaman, who has been in the business for around three decades, said his monthly sales were more than Tk3.5 lakh before the pandemic, with a Tk80,000 to Tk1 lakh profit.
"But now I cannot earn even Tk20,000 a month. I took out a loan of about Tk15 lakh in the last one year to pay the employees and shop rents."
Before the virus outbreak, Nishan Ad had 16 staffers. Maniruzzaman said he had to terminate 11 of them owing to the business slump.
Now he and the remaining five employees sit idle with customers being few and far between.
The businessman hoped the sector would return around the time the educational institutions reopened. But he believes the recovery will take quite a long time.
The government shuttered the educational institutions while the whole country in March 2020 went under a 66-day shutdown to contain the virus spread. Sports, mass gatherings, social and cultural events were banned then.
Though public and private offices reopened gradually after the shutdown, many businesses are yet to regain their pre-pandemic pace.
At least 15,000 people used to make ends meet from crest sales, and October-March period is the peak time of the business. In the last two decades, the market doubled to reach the current Tk400 crore.
Visits to several crest shops in the capital recently revealed most of the traders sitting idle with few customers to deal with.
The traders said educational institutions, sporting clubs and corporate entities were their main customers. Though public and private offices have reopened, office functions are not taking place on a mass scale.
Port city Chattogram's Monihar has been making medals, crests, trophies, name plates and gift items since 1977.
Monihar owner Alokesh Das Apu said his annual sales were around Tk50 lakh. "But sales during the nine months of the pandemic were too little to pay rents and staff salaries," he said.
Apu says though the business started to recover gradually from December last year, it is far from returning to the pre-pandemic stage.
Meanwhile, Runa Akter, owner of Sagor Ad and Printing in Barishal, said the firm's sales after reopening had dropped to one-fourth of what it was prior to the virus outbreak.To survive the fallout, Runa said she had to downsize the shop and terminate at least three employees.
After the 66-day countrywide shutdown, crest shops reopened in June last year. After the business resumed, most of the shops laid off workers.
Since the traders do not have any central association, the accurate number of job losses was unavailable. But unofficial data suggest at least 5,000 crest workers have lost jobs owing to the virus fallout.
Baitul Mukarram's Smrity Enterprise owner Abul Hashem said the Covid-induced crisis had eaten up 70% of his sales. The shop had eight employees, but it now had only two.
Many left business
There were 180 crest shops at Kataban market. Fifteen shops have already shuttered the business while a few more are likely to follow the lead. Many businessmen returned to their ancestral villages while some switched to other professions.
Other crest markets in the city are also in the same situation.
Mohakhali crest trader Manna Dey had been in the business for more than two decades. After failing to stay afloat, he returned to his village in Noakhali four months ago.
"My shop rent was due for eight months. I had to sell a plot to clear it, and then moved to Noakhali," he told The Business Standard.
Manna Dey said he had tried his best to keep the business afloat, but failed in the end.
Orders from political parties declined too
Gulistan's Nandanik Award owner Mohammad Asaduzzaman said his shop used to get orders for crests and medals from political parties.
"If we compare things with the last fifteen years, orders from parties are much less now than it was then."
"We are going through tough times," Kawsar Hossain Titu, president of the Kantaban Award and Gift Items Traders Association, told TBS.
TBS correspondents in Chattogram and Barishal contributed to the report